Less than a year ago, the Italian Food Company brought a slice of Italy to the Keys with authentic Neapolitan pizza and Italian goods. The indoor-outdoor shopping and dining experience has been so well-embraced by the Key Largo community, they are now opening a second location in the heart of downtown Islamorada.
Like their signature lava tables imported from the base of Mount Edna, the Italian Food Company was forged from difficulty and polished into a place to congregate. The immersive ambiance similar to that of an Italian street market pierced through the ashes of the pandemic, bringing joy and good food to the Keys’ community.
“The feedback from our customers has been incredible,” Tony and Isis Wright, the husband-and-wife owners, say in unison. Then Isis continues, “We almost immediately had regular customers who stop in for lunch or bring their families on the weekends. We even have people coming down from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.”
Tony and Isis started their endeavor as newbies to the restaurant industry. However, raised in Italy by an Italian mother and U.S. military father, Tony is no stranger to Italian food and culture. In fact, his two-culture upbringing added much to their success in introducing authentic Italian cuisine to an American community. Their long-time experience in recruiting also equipped them to form the perfect team, including Tony’s sister, Roberta Wright, who has been an operational super task master from the start.
Another key player in that team is their Master Pizzaiolo, Leo Figlioli, from a long family line of master pizza makers. Many Americans don’t realize the art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiolo is recognized as a UNESCO heritage artform.
“Authentic Neapolitan pizza is all about the dough and fresh ingredients,” Tony explains. “And Leo is a true master. It’s as if you can taste the centuries of Italian heritage.”
Another brilliant pizzaiolo from Naples, Pietro Calemme, has joined the team with his experience from working in Naples, London, and New York. Together, they will bring Leo’s famous dough and native Italian flavors to both locations.
Adding to their success, everything is from Italy, from the imported ingredients, olive oil, and cheeses to plates, silverware, glasses, and the lava tables that are all handmade and hand-painted. Tony and Isis also give credit to Joel Cossio of Beach House Gardens, who Tony refers to as his conceptual partner in creating the family-friendly outdoor space that has become a community gathering place.
Between the exceptional pizza, appetizers, and salads and the beautiful imported products and lively atmosphere, it’s no wonder Italian Food Company is opening a second location. Isis and Tony hadn’t originally planned to open another location so soon, but an opportunity arose backed by customer demand. So, as Isis puts it, they’re going to “keep swimming.”
The new location is the old Bentley’s building, which is under transformation into a more indoor version of the current outdoor-indoor Italian Food Company. The new location will have the same Italian charm, goods, and food but with a “slightly” expanded menu and regional reach.
“I think of the new location as a sister, not a twin of the original,” Isis says with a smile. “The same, but slightly different. And this sister travels a bit more, venturing into Northern Italy more than her Naples-based sister.”
This larger location will also give a nod to American cuisine with a couple of dishes, such as a Tuscan burger with pesto sauce. With his multi-cultural background, it’s important to Tony to acknowledge the different local palates now that the space allows for it, while still remaining true to authentic Italia.
With the brother of the flagship’s pizza oven arriving any day now, the new location is rushing forward to opening day, expected in early Spring. They encourage everyone to follow them on Instagram @TheItalianFoodCompany to monitor their progress and be notified of the grand opening.
– Jerrica Mah is a writer, army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.